Piaxtla Update: A Trip to Mexico City to Pick Up Supplies
The school in Ajoya, due to confusion as to whether it was to be State or Federally operated, did not open this year until early November. For awhile it seemed doubtful that it would open at all, and as Allison and I had planned a trip to Mexico City to pick up donated medical supplies, we decided to take a group of the schoolless children with us. We took mainly those youngsters who have helped us most in our clinics; five from Ajoya and two from Jocuixtita (near El Zopilote). And in spite of what I had already written about Juan, we took him, too.
In all honesty, it is hard to say how much the children got out of their trip. Juan, of course, didn’t miss a thing. And ten year old Irma’s big eyes forever danced with wonder and delight. The children relished most the race to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, and they laughed so hard watching the monkeys in the zoo that most of the other spectators looked at them instead. The vastness of the city, the incredible marvel of the Museo de Antropología, the grandeur of the Zócalo and the awesome spectacle of the Cathedral all made relatively little impression on them, being too fantastic perhaps, for their sense of reality.
Luís and the Cathedral
For little Luís from Jocuixtita, the whole experience was at times too much, and he would switch off his sensory responses altogether. For Luís, the most important part of the trip to Mexico City, perhaps, was that somebody cared enough for him to take him. Luís was brought up by his grandfather, Anselmo, his mother having abandoned him as an infant and his father having subsequently remarried. Even when, last year, his grandfather was killed accidentally by a “vivo” (joy shot) fired at a dance, his father refused to reclaim the boy, who was then taken in by an uncle. Since that time, Luís began to show up now and again at El Zopilote, usually in rags or clothing far too big or small for him. I gave him clothing, a blanket and always' something to eat, and he in turn, would work in the garden, feed the birds, and bring water from the spring. He is shy and quiet, and I think not very bright, though it .is hard to judge. In the last five years he has spent a total of a dozen days in school.
When we had made the rounds of the Zócalo and stopped in front of the monstrous Cathedral in Mexico City, Luís was unimpressed. It rose before us, perhaps not beautiful, but colossal and elaborate beyond belief. With its thousands upon thousands of busily sculptured figures, one on top of the other, anting its massive wall, it surged skyward like a great stony reflection of downtown Mexico City in the rush hour.
Most of the group made a bee line to see the inside of the Cathedral. I reluctantly stayed with the car, as we had parked in a tow away zone. Luis, for lack of interest, stayed with me, his hands in his pockets and the look on his face of a thirsting man with a view of nothing but desert in front of him.
And then, all of a sudden, Luís came to life. He pointed eagerly at the figured walls of the Cathedral, and cried ecstatically, “¡Mire, Davíd! ¡Mire! ¡Qué bonitos! ¡Que son?” (“Look David! Look! How lovely! What are they?") “What are what?” I asked, overcome by his sudden enthusiasm. “Los animalitos!”, he cried exuberantly. “¡Ay qué bonitos!” I told him they were pigeons. “¡Ay, qué bonitos!”
And to think! There they were tile whole time, each one of them a greater miracle, a more intricate and harmonious masterpiece than the Cathedral itself. And I had looked right at them without even seeing them! . . . You taught me something, my boy. Dear Luis!
Networking with Charles Vickery
For Project Piaxtla, our trip to Mexico City proved fruitful in many ways, principally due to contacts set up for us by our host, Charles Vickery, leader of the Asociación Unitaria Mexicana. From the president of one of Mexico’s leading drug companies, we received many thousands of pesos worth of critically needed medicines. We reconfirmed our relationships with the two family planning programs in Mexico City (Pro-Salud and La Fundación para Estudios de la Población), and were given birth control supplies by each. Most importantly for the future of our project, we had lunch with Dr. Arturo Scarpita, the supervisor of all government operated and affiliated hospitals and health centers in the country. Dr. Scarpita, who himself grew up in a village of 2000 people in Durango, not far from our area, completely affirmed the need of projects such as ours, and. offered to do whatever he could to help us. He feels certain that he can pull strings to regain permission for American doctors to perform surgery in our area. He was aware of the inadequacy of the Centro de Salud in San Ignacio, and has promised to supply the Centro with a conscientious doctor who will cooperate with us; and on learning that I have been trying for two years to get B.C.G. (tuberculosis) vaccine from the San Ignacio in Centro de Salud, he gave us, on the spot, 300 B.C.G. vaccines. And he may be able to help us with other medications. Above all else, knowing that we have as big a name in Mexican medicine as Dr. Scarpita on our side, gives Project Piaxtla much more security in what was formerly, on political grounds at least, a very tenuous position.
Updates on Clinic Accomodations and Volunteers
The Ajoya clinic has come up in the world, at least in the world of the barrancas. All the volunteer doctors and dentists who in our previous location shared our cramped quarters with chickens, dogs, cockroaches and fleas, will be pleased to know that we have rented a (comparatively) magnificent old building, with ample rooms, a spacious patio and (in part at least) cement floors. The villagers helped clean it up and whitewash the walls, and. it is now far more pleasant to work in than the old place. We have an orderly dispensary, a laboratory and a dark room now, as well as some dental and general X-ray equipment. Miguel Angel Manjarrez did a beautiful job of setting up the dental area, where he takes charge when he returns from high school in San Ignacio on weekends.
This announcement of our new clinic is made in hopes of luring doctors and dentists who have been here before to make return visits, and enticing other doctors, dentists and medical and dental students to come and volunteer their help. In the near future we will be temporarily losing part of our most valuable staff. Allison Akana, a former student of mine from Pacific High School, who has spent the last two years with us, and who set up and headed our third clinic in the village of Chillar, will be returning to continue her schooling on the long road to becoming a doctor. She plans to return to México during vacations. Bill Gonda, who spent the better part of half a year with us, will also be continuing his medical studies in the States, as will Phil Mease, provided we find someone to take his place. All three of these young people, though each very different from the other, are very rare individuals who have given of themselves with an eagerness and an integrity that gives one new faith in the human potential.